Do you need time off work for pregnancy, childbirth, or parenting? If you work in Iowa, the Iowa Civil Rights Act gives employees the right to take unpaid time off for pregnancy and childbirth, as does the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) also prohibits your employer from discriminating against you because of your pregnancy, which may give you the right to take time off work, in some cases.
There are two types of laws that might protect you if you need pregnancy leave: laws that require pregnancy leave and laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination.
The Iowa Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of sex and pregnancy. Under the Civil Rights Act, employers in Iowa with at least four employees must let employees take time off when they are unable to work due to pregnancy and childbirth. Unless you are entitled to take time off another way (for example, under your employer's sick leave policy or temporary disability insurance policy), your employer must allow you to take leave for the period of time when you are temporarily disabled by pregnancy or childbirth, up to a total of eight weeks.
The FMLA gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off work in a one-year period for pregnancy, including prenatal care. The FMLA, however, applies only to employers with at least 50 employees. Employees are eligible for leave if they have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, and at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately preceding their leave. (Learn more about the FMLA, including eligibility requirements, in our article on FMLA leave for pregnancy and disability.)
The FMLA allows employees to take their leave intermittently, if it's medically necessary. For example, if you have a morning sickness or a prenatal check-up, you don't have to take a whole day off; you can use a couple of hours of your FMLA leave, then go back to work.
The PDA does not require employers to give pregnant employees time off work, but it does require employers to treat employees who are unable to work due to pregnancy just as it treats employees who are temporarily disabled for other reasons, such as illness or surgery.
The FMLA also gives employees the right to take time off to bond with a new child. This is part of your total 12-week FMLA leave, however, so, if you use two weeks of FMLA leave during your pregnancy, you will have ten weeks left to use for parenting leave. Although some states have their own parental leave laws, Iowa does not.
If you want to use your parenting leave under the FMLA a little at a time, you must get permission from your employer. You aren't automatically entitled to use your parenting leave intermittently.
And if you happen to be married to someone who works for the same company, your employer can limit your total amount of FMLA leave for parenting to 12 weeks for both of you. However, whatever portion of your own 12 weeks of FMLA leave you don't use for parenting will still be available to you for other reasons, including your own serious health condition.
FMLA leave and leave under the Iowa Civil Rights Act is unpaid, but you can use your accrued paid leave (like sick days, vacation, or PTO) to get paid during your time off (your employer can actually require you to use this paid time off).
Your employer may also offer maternity and paternity leave benefits, parental benefits, or short-term disability insurance. Talk to your HR representative or manager (and check your employee handbook) to find out what types of leave are available to you.